Unraveling coloniality in international relations: Knowledge, relationality, and strategies for engagement

Karen Tucker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
650 Downloads (Pure)


A wide-ranging conversation has been unfolding in the past two decades on the colonial origins and legacies of international relations (IR) and the ways in which these might be overcome. Critiques and counter-projects that draw inspiration from Latin American decolonial thinking have become an increasingly prominent part of this, particularly in the past few years. In this article, I offer an assessment of this nascent decolonial IR. I make two broad arguments: that dominant modes of decolonial critique in IR need to be supplemented by projects that unravel-that is, make sense of and disrupt-racialized power and knowledge relations as they play out across multiple political, economic, and epistemic sites; and that achieving this requires more nuanced and targeted decolonial methodologies than those that are currently available. This leads me to reframe coloniality in IR as a methodological problem, not to supplant questions of epistemology, ontology, or ethics in decolonial IR but to render them more amenable to empirical analysis. Illustrating my discussion through reference to the global governance of "traditional knowledge," I sketch out a methodological framework for decolonial IR that is attentive to the slow, context-specific processes through which coloniality (re)emerges but is also reshaped.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberoly005
Pages (from-to)215-232
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Political Sociology
Issue number3
Early online date30 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • coloniality
  • research methology
  • 'traditional knowledge'
  • global governance
  • decolonial IR

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